The Berlin Wall has now officially been down longer than it was up. That’s astonishing. I remember 1989 quite well. The Cold War that had dominated my childhood was officially over. The dreaded symbol of oppression had been toppled. It was the end of an age. For my entire life I had thought of geopolitics entirely in terms of the United States vs. the Soviet Union. And suddenly, it wasn’t. The tearing down of the wall was the biggest symbol of that transformation.
I was able to take my family to the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, a few years ago. As the wall fell during Mr. Bush’s term in the White House, a large piece of the Wall is there. It’s like the world’s biggest trophy. “And the gold medal in 20th Century political gamesmanship goes to … USA! USA! USA!”
We think of walls as being permanent things. I certainly do. When I hear someone talking about “taking out a wall” in some sort of home renovation project, my jaw drops. Having the confidence to tear down a wall, to me, is like having a superpower.
In reality, all walls fall eventually. Berlin’s wall was supposed to keep democracy out. It fell. Jericho’s wall was supposed to keep the Israelites out. It fell. “The barrier of the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14) that was the Law of Moses was supposed to keep Jews and Gentiles separated. It fell. They all had their purpose and their time. And regardless of how noble or ignoble those purposes were, their time came and went.
Certain things are permanent — especially when we are talking about the things of God. But most things that seem permanent are illusions, based on our relatively short lifespans and attention spans. We cannot imaging another reality because we have not had occasion to live in one. And as often as not, we hesitate when offered the opportunity. Change is intimidating.
“Walls” were built between Christians of different skin color many years ago — walls that served no purpose other than to emphasize the distinctions between us, which is precisely what Jesus is trying to eliminate (Galatians 3:28). Most Christians during my lifetime, I believe, hated this system. We read comments written by “great” men of faith a century ago and wonder how Christians could ever be so hateful, But then, we often build “walls” of our own — barriers to entry that are much more exclusionary than the Jim Crow laws of old. Perhaps they are based on skin color, perhaps on economics, perhaps on age. And naturally we would never dream of being rude or hateful to one another in an overt manner. Still, when the opportunity presents itself to have the close communal association that we see in brethren of old (Acts 2:42), those walls could not be more impenetrable.
The time is come, and is long past, for Christians to act like Christians with other Christians. No exceptions. It is simply not right for us to be “uncomfortable” speaking to one another, regardless of the factors that would separate people under different circumstances. We will be enjoying eternity with these brothers and sisters in Christ. On the off chance that God doesn’t let us segregate our neighborhoods in heaven, we really ought to practice getting along with one another here and now.